Spies tried to sabotage Israel’s air force
EFFORTS BY the infant Israeli army to build an air force were deliberately undermined by British agents and diplomats during a ceasefire brokered by the United Nations Security Council midway through the 1948 War of Independence.
Secret files held by the National Archives in Kew show that British officials passed on to the UN mediator of the four-week long truce, Count Folke Bernadotte, reports of aircraft pressed into service by Jewish forces.
A British agent was ordered by his superiors in London to “underline orally” to Bernadotte — who was assassinated in Jerusalem by Stern Gang gunmen in September 1948 — that Jewish efforts to build an air force constituted “a violation of the truce”.
They also constituted a “very considerable reversal of the relative balance of strength” in the war, continued the message.
The British said they were sure that reports of Jewish air power were accurate. Not only did they come through intelligence surveillance of Jewish air bases in Palestine but were also backed by reports from the RAF. The backbone of the Jewish air force was 13 Messerschmitt 109 fighter planes. In addition, it had Curtis Commando transport aircraft and an unknown number of Flying Fortress bombers, said a Foreign Office document.
Many of the planes came from North and Central America. In particular, British officials pointed to the activities of a “bogus” Panamanian airline, Lineas Aero de Panama, which they said was “known to be Jewish owned” and was ferrying Lockheed Constellation and Curtis aircraft to Jewish forces in Palestine.